THURSDAY, Jul. 19, 2007 - David J. Kahn

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: 20A: With 28-, 48- and 56-Across, riddle whose answer appears in the circled squares...

RIDDLE: What implement / can be produced / from potassium / nickel and iron?
ANSWER (spelled out in circled squares): K NI FE

I thought riddles were supposed to be fun, or funny, or at least clever. This is just a dull fact. [OK, I'm an Idiot ... K = Potassium, NI = Nickel, and FE = Iron, as helpful commenters have noted; so the theme *is* clever, after all, I suppose - in its way]

As with many Kahn ("Khan!") puzzles, this was thorny throughout, though not particularly vicious in any one part - except perhaps the NE, which was home to two of several answers I did not know, and at least one misstep. For 9D: "Odyssey," for one (poem) I had EPIC, which made me then consider ERST for 9A: Ex- and IDEE for 19A: Abbe de l'_____, pioneer in sign language (epee) - never heard of the latter. Also never heard of 16A: Talk radio's _____ & Anthony (Opie) - You lost me at "Talk radio" (I can't think of any worse way to spend my time, except perhaps going under the dentist's drill).

Other stuff I didn't know...

5A: Project Blue Book subject (UFOs) - "blue books" are what my students write midterms / finals in. They are the only "blue books" I am familiar with.

18A: Turns about, as a mast (slues) - I know I have claimed I don't know this answer before, but I'm claiming it again.

51A: Kentucky's Athlete of the Century (Ali) - I guessed it from its three-letteredness, but I don't normally associate ALI with the Bluegrass State.

I liked SIBYL (39A: Fortuneteller) over TROY (47A: Movie featuring Peter O'Toole as Priam), as both figure prominently in the Aeneid, which I teach often. Also liked the beautifully symmetrical crossing of NILE and DELTA (58D: With 66-Across, Egyptian agricultural area). SET A DATE (38D: Plan for nuptials) took me way longer than it should have, considering I got DATE early. I thought the Rolling Stones were somehow involved with the Windows 95 start-up sound, but no, it was BRIAN ENO (40D: Musician who created the Windows 95 start-up sound), seen here in his less common complete-name form. Happy to get RED WINGS right off the bat - years spent in Michigan pays off - and NOT happy to get baffled by 37A: Affluent duo? (efs), especially given that you almost never see the letter "F" spelled out like that. ICKY (60A: Like worms).

Boston was a blast, especially the first night, when I got to see the first regulation shutout at Fenway by a Red Sox rookie (Kason Gabbard) since Roger Clemens on July 26, 1984, and by a Red Sox rookie lefty since Roger Moret on Sept. 24, 1971.

The next day was not as great, as we got beat up by a terrible KC team, but the game was still a lot of fun. We sat in the first row of the rightfield seats, and so right up against the Red Sox bullpen. I could have poked many a pitcher if I'd been so inclined. Crowds of elated kids would descend on our seats at every inning break to try to get a look or wave from their favorite players (especially Jonathan Papelbon).

I think I got Mike Timlin to smile at me. He may have been smiling at some hot chick nearby, I can't be sure.

Anyway, Sox are now on a losing streak while Yankees are on a winning streak, which I told everyone would happen eventually, even though sportscaster after sportscaster called the Yankees "dead." Why will nobody listen?! The Yankees are like Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction" - you think she's dead in that tub? Well then I hope you like knives, 'cause you're about to get stabbed with one. Anyway ... Fenway was gorgeous, as was the weather, and I saw Crossword Fiend's book at the COOP bookstore in Harvard Square, so all in all it was a winning trip. Glad to be home - though I came home to find sick wife :( Summer colds are horrrrrible.

Speaking of which - must go take care of morning child care now.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 8:05 AM  

potassium= K
nickel= NI
iron = FE

I think this rises at least a bit above the level of a dull fact. Separating the elements acorss three words is good, too.


eebee 8:09 AM  

Just found your page not long ago, never commented before... but as no one else has pointed it out, the riddle is kind of clever, but still not funny.

The clever is that K, NI, and FE are the chemical symbols for potassium, nickel and iron. Took me a while to see it.

Anyway, love your blog, good work.

Scott 8:15 AM  

I liked the idea of spelling something from chemical symbols. I also liked seeing ENO get a first name; it felt like a kind of a breakthrough.

Long ago I had a Brian Eno album in which he had a string ensemble play Pachelbels Canon, changing the speed of each measure through some random process. The result was much more interesting to listen to than the original.

And Rex, if you've never heard of Project Bluebook, you obviously don't watch many cable TV documentaries.

Anonymous 8:46 AM  

i was totally rattled by the NE and so grouchy about the riddle, once i solved it, that it took me a minute to see the real riddle of it. K Ni Fe. Plus, i was solving on macxword and did not see the circles. Still, now that the dust has settled, i liked the puzzle a lot. Think it pretty clever and maddening in the right way. Maybe Rex wishes vacation was a little longer, or the sox a little better.

Orange 9:03 AM  

Even I have heard of Opie and Anthony. IIRC, they're NYC shock jocks who routinely offend with their stunts (sex in St. Patrick's Cathedral comes to mind) and get in trouble with the FCC. The overall Newyorkcentricity of the media means these guys are national news when they make the headlines.

Alex 9:34 AM  

I found this to be the easiest Thursday I've done. 4 of the first 7 accrosses were gimmes for me (UFOS, ASEA, OPIE, and BEDS) and that was enough for almost every involved down to reveal itself. Don't know why but I got FILIGREE off the F.

I don't think I've ever actually heard Opie & Anthony but have heard of it when their antics make the news.

Despite the overall easiness for me (I think this is the first Thursday, or at least the first in a long time I finished with absolutely no outside help) I almost didn't finish because of the crossing of ORFEO and EFS at the F. Took me a bit of staring to see that EFS made sense for the clue.

Linda G 9:48 AM  

Rex, you're not an idiot. I didn't get it until I was blogging about what a stupid riddle it riddle, in fact.

I hadn't heard of Opie & Anthony, either. Your Opie is much cuter.

EFS -- Amy wrote about answers like this in her book, and I still stared at it thinking...WTF.

Welcome back. I'm sure Mike Timlin was smiling at you ; )

Norm 10:11 AM  

This struck me as a rather boring puzzle. And, I don't think a masyt slues. The boat slues, maybe even the sails, but the mast stays put. Eh, I think this puzzle actually made me cranky.

crossnerd 10:49 AM  

Welcome back! Glad you had a good time in Boston.

SETADATE caught me up in the same way. I actually had -E-ADATE for a while and still didn't see it. :P

Pete M 12:10 PM  

I remember Opie and Anthony from when they were on WAAF in Boston. They were famous/infamous for their "W.O.W." campaign (short for "Whip 'em out Wednesday"), whereby women during the morning and evening commutes were encouraged to flash cars that bore the "WOW" bumper sticker. "Talk radio" just doesn't begin to categorize them.

Anonymous 12:27 PM  

How does EFS relate to affluent duo?

Pete M 12:33 PM  

There are two 'F's in "affluent".

karen 12:40 PM  

I remember the 'Project Blue Book' tv series that came out soon after Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind...early x-files type of cases, the poor air force guys would always get there just after the UFO had left.

Anonymous 12:40 PM  


I thought the NE was tough as well.

Ali was known as the Louisville Lip early in his career, although I think of him as more of a world stage personality. I usually associate Kentucky with horses and basketball.

Steve M.

campesite 12:59 PM  

I always want to get the riddles in these before doing the downs, which is why I'll post about a nine-hour time on the website (and because I fall asleep). I tried to force 'what's long and...' or 'what instrument' and the like. In the end, not a bad puzzle, but I'm just happy I finished.

Anonymous 12:59 PM  

Norm - Actually there are sluing masts on some very large sailboats (motorsailers). The masts have a sort of teardrop cross-section and the mainsail is stored inside when not unfurled. This makes it possible to handle the VERY large sails used on such yachts.

Michael 1:07 PM  

I got the elements joke once i filled in K NI FE, but I thought the riddle would be potassium (K), nitrogen (N) iodine (I) and iron (FE). Yes, I'm geekier than the puzzlemaker himself.

Kelley's Blue Book tells you the value of automobiles, and also told me that CARS was unfortunately incorrect.

Are you a Yankees fan or a Bosox fan? Can't tell whether you're cool or not.

Luigi 1:26 PM  

Don't get 23D-One with a sterling service-acer?

Liked your pictures Rex.

Anonymous 1:32 PM  

An ace is a really good tennis serve, hence an acer. I don't know anything about tennis that I haven't learned from crosswords.

jae 1:54 PM  

I found this pretty easy with a couple of rough spots i.e. NE and the ORFEO-EFS crossing. I know about the EFS rouse but it still got me for a while. I also did not see the riddle, very clever! I went through LEGAL and LEGIT for Kosher before getting it right.

Anonymous 2:35 PM  

Would someone please explain EFS?

Fergus 2:41 PM  

I shall trump Norm by saying that this was a most insipid puzzle. If it weren't for FILIGREE I would have thought it thoroughly dull. And to echo someone else, despite the chemical cleverness, this is really a far stretch as a riddle goes.

I wondered about Rex's baseball loyalty when I first hit this blog a couple of months ago, but now it's clear that 2004 was the banner year. Back in 1979 I committed a supposed cardinal sin among baseball fans by switching allegiance from the White Sox to the A's. Some of us would BART down from Berkeley to cheer on Rookie Henderson in a virtually vacant Coliseum (a word that seems to be spelled differently in each arena).

Riddle-me-REE, indeed.

Fergus 2:42 PM  

And Michael, that would be some kind of KNIFE made out of those elements!

luigi 3:24 PM  

EF stands for the letter F and there are 2 of them (a duo) in the word affluent-hence EFS.

Puzzler 4:12 PM  

I was abroad most of May so only finished the Sunday, May 13th puzzle last night. Anyway, there are supernumeraries on the opera stage--they have non-singing roles and carry spears or are the flower sellers, for example. Now whether or not, "supes" is used as an abbreviation by the opera, I don't know. Re today's puzzle, the answer of "efs" for affluent is a good one. Had to Google the sign language pioneer.

Squash's Mom 4:48 PM  

Try as I might, I couldn't get "Riddle me this, Batman" out of my brain. I'd never heard the term riddle - me - ree.

Anonymous 4:54 PM  

Thank you Luigi for the answer on the EFS-I was really at my wit's end on that one.

Anonymous 4:55 PM  

I was at my wits' end too

Orange 5:35 PM  

Omigod, this anonymous person has multiple personality disorder—and both personas were equally stumped by that answer.

Anonymous 6:02 PM  

So was I!

scatman 8:55 PM  

Also a good Thursday curve ball in cluing "ASLOUD" as "Comparitively noisy." The clue made me automatically place an "ER" at the end, which had me scratching my head as to how R could be a Roman numeral.

hobbyist 9:20 PM  

Was glad to meet Lyme correctly used as both my vet and dentist refer to it as "Lymes disease." Ya can't correct medicos I guess. At least I haven't done so as of yet. My dogs and canines (teeth) might suffer the consequences.

Anonymous 1:31 AM  

Lyme Disease is named for Lyme, Connecticut.

shel 8:01 AM  

Maybe I was just exhausted from a hellish day at work, but I could not get a grip on this puzzle. First time in a long time that I haven't finished a Thursday puzzle. Felt kinda defeated, but I am gonna blame it on brain exhaustion...BTW, dentists always get such a bad rap. Dentistry has really changed guys, It's just not that bad anymore.

katya 12:01 PM  

6WL Why does Will S. allow all those horrid "er" nouns? ACER is an abomination.

I was convinced that slue should refer to a boom turning on an axis until I read the comment above. I don't move in circles where people have fancy yachts but I have been on many a sailboat and never saw the boom "slue."

American Heritage Dictionary - slue 1 also slew
v. tr.
To turn (something) on an axis; rotate: slued the swivel chair around; sluing the boom of a crane.

One last gripe: AS LOUD is an awkward answer to "comparatively noisy."

Anonymous 3:27 PM  


katya, I agree on ASLOUD.

I thought I ACER'd it but didn't recheck and ended up with FILIGREF and FFS. WTeF?

When I had the bottom half and saw the K NI FE, I thought perhaps there were more circles in the top half and my syndicated version lost them. I didn't get the riddle until I read Rex.

The NE was toughest for me. I tried supplying suffixes to "Ex-", tried EPIC, tried SAGA, finally got PAST and it fell.

I guess if I knew the chemical symbols I would have enjoyed it.

WWPierre 8:02 PM  

This was a 2 cupper for me. Like Rex, I had trouble in New England, resorting to Google for Opie and Epee, but only to check after I had filled them in. I wasted a fair amount of time searching for an acronym for 9d,Odyssey, thinking it might refer to one of those little vehicles roaming around Mars. Are they still active?

I got the bottom half filled in first, so I got the riddle right away, and only had to re-compose it from a few crossings.

I would quibble 37a EFS, and I think the clue to 9a should have read: Ex- eg. However, my well-voiced admiration of the constructor's artfulness makes me pretty forgiving.

Waxy in Montreal 10:08 PM  

To wwpierre:

The NASA Mars rovers are Spirit and Opportunity (but not Odyssey)and according to
are still on the move...

Enjoyed this Thursday riddle-theme a lot but ended up having to resort to Google for 18A. SLUES, 19A. EPEE and 30D. ORFEO to solve the puzzle.

And ICKY and EGGY in the same crossword? NAH!

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